Monday, August 31, 2015

Jan Autengruber

On the porch
before 1940
oil on canvas
100 x 83 cm
other details unknown

Jan Autengruber (1887-1920) was a Czech painter. He studied at the Academy of Arts in Prague and the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich.  Twice he won the annual prize of the Academy. This came to the attention of the German public. In the years 1907-1913 he worked in Munich, in 1910 he made a bike trip to Paris. In 1913 he received a scholarship Klaarovo and went to Italy until 1915.

During the war he tried to avoid enlisting the front, so he began at the Academy in Munich to study restoration. But eventually military service began and he went to the front. After the war he settled in Prague and enrolled to study art history and French at the Faculty of Philosophy.  In 1919 he married a painter and had a daughter in 1920. Soon after that he fell ill with the Spanish flu, severe pneumonia, and died on July 15, 1920.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Stanislav Feikl

View of the Prague Castle (Blick auf den Hradschin)
by 1933
oil on canvas
81 x 100 cm
location unknown

Stanislav Feikl (1883-1933) was a Czech painter. He studied at the School of Applied Arts and at the Prague Academy of Fine Arts. For inspiration, he toured Russia, Turkey, Dalmatia and northern Italy. He is known for his pictures of old Prague, rural areas and portraits of women, including naked. He painted impressionist paintings.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Bretislav Bartos

Laundry bleaching
oil on canvas
50 x 41 cm
other details unknown

Bretislav Bartos (1893-1926) was a Czech painter, born in Frenstat pod Radhostem, died at Dolni Mokropsy near Prague.
His paintings displayed density and surface expression, often using sober tones, bordering earthiness. Some of his work was similar to Italian Renaissance paintings. His paintings often had symbolic overtones and he tried to express in his work social situation which sometimes occur and revolutionary themes.

He graduated from the Prague Academy of Graphic Art. He fought in the World War I as a legionnaire in Italy, and during his time of service in the Italian Legion, in his free time, he painted a collection of scenes from the Front. In 1914 he co-founded the art association Koliba (Moravian art competition of the Prague meetings at which he also exhibited). He died in 1926 aged only 33 from tuberculosis.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Zdenka Braunerova

In a quiet garden of the lesser quarter
watercolor on paper
43.5 × 32 cm
location unknown

Zdenka Braunerova (1858-1934) was a Czech landscape painter, illustrator and graphic artist.
In addition to her painting, she was also a printmaker, book designer and glass engraver.
For many years, she was involved in efforts to help prevent the destruction of the Medieval section of Prague and the old Jewish ghetto. As part of this effort, she created a series of prints depicting the area. Many younger artists received financial support from her.

She was born into a wealthy family. Her father was a member of the Imperial Council. She developed her interest in art from her mother who was an amateur painter. Prominent writers and artists were regular guests at her home.

A major inspiration for her art was Paris, where she spent part of each year from 1881 to 1893, and the painters of the Barbizon school. While there, she also attended the Academie Colarossi and exhibited frequently; in Paris at the Salon and in Prague at the Rudolfinum.  In 1896, she became the first female member of the Manes Union of Fine Arts.

However, she never abandoned her connections to her homeland, often taking part in performances where she would dance in Czech costumes and sing folk songs. She had, in fact considered becoming a singer before turning to art.

Later, she opened a studio in Roztoky and, in 1902, she extended an invitation to Auguste Rodin to visit Bohemia and Moravia. In 1909, she developed a close friendship with Paul Claudel, who was serving as the French consul in Prague. Roztoky would be her home for the rest of her life, and she would draw inspiration from the rural people and landscapes, while keeping a detailed diary and series of sketchbooks. She continued to exhibit until 1932 and died while staying at her family's home in Prague.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Petr Brandl

Simeon with Infant Jesus
oil on canvas
National Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic
other details unknown

Petr Brandl (1668-1739) was a leading Baroque painter in Bohemia. He employed strong chiaroscuro and created emotional and energetic works that are characterized by a powerful, passionate movement of colors and dramatic tension as well as a distinct tenderness. His mature works were created during the Baroque glory years, from 1715 to 1728. His exceptional works had a massive influence on Czech art.

He was the sixth child in a Czech-German family. His father worked as a tailor and was of German ancestry. His mother was Czech from a peasant family in a south Bohemian town. As a child he would often gaze at the paintings in Nostic Palace of Prague’s Lesser Quarter. After dropping out of a Jesuit grammar school, he worked as an apprentice to a court painter who introduced him to Italian, Dutch and Flemish masterpieces. Opting for a bohemian lifestyle, he did not finish the apprenticeship.

His personal life was fraught with problems, and he lived irresponsibly, frequenting pubs of ill repute. Sometimes he called noble residences or monasteries home, but he also spent time in prison and was poverty-stricken. After abandoning his wife and their three children, he refused to pay her alimony even when he was paid well for his paintings. His wife even sued him several times. Always wasting money, he seemed to be perpetually in debt. He was not one to keep his promises, and sometimes it would take him years to complete a commission. Though he had been accepted in the Old Town painters’ guild in 1694, he did not have enough money to pay the dues.

When he was 36 years old, the artistic world held high expectations of him. He executed an altarpiece for the Church of the Birth of the Virgin Mary in Doksany during 1703. From 1710 to 1723, he did not produce many paintings. He devoted most of his time to his investments in a mining business. Instead of making a fortune, he wound up accruing more debts. Then he returned to painting full-time. When he was 60, things took a turn for the worst. Not only did he battle illnesses , but his problems with debts also came to the fore. He was imprisoned and upon his release acquired even more debts. In 1733 all his paintings and clothing were confiscated, and his creditors received the money obtained from selling them. The poverty-stricken painter often visited the pub, where he was found dead September 24, 1735. His funeral was as dramatic as his paintings. The Cistercians, the Jesuits, the town council, the Mining Authority and about 300 miners with lamps shining paid tribute to the extraordinarily talented, vagabond painter who was laid to rest in the Church of the Virgin Mary.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Arthur Lismer

Olympic with Returned Soldiers
(He captured the return of the troopship SS Olympic to Halifax harbour following the First World War)
oil on canvas
123 x 163.3 cm
Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Arthur Lismer (1885-1969), born in Sheffield England, was a painter, educator. he was one of the founders of the Group of Seven and a crucial figure in the development of arts education in Canada.

At age 13 he apprenticed at a photo-engraving company. He was awarded a scholarship and studied at the Sheffield School of Arts from 1898 until 1905. Then in 1905 he moved to Antwerp Belgium where he studied art at the Academie Royale. He immigrated to Canada in 1911, and settled in Toronto where he began to work at a commercial design company. While there he met MacDonald, Carmichael and Thomson, and they eventually became members of the Group of Seven. In 1920 the Group of Seven was officially formed. He counted up the people in the group and gave them a name.

His artistic style was inspired by the Barbizon and Post Impressionist movements in Belgium, and this showed through in his art. Not only was he a painter, but an author of several articles about the Canadian art scene. In 1967 he was made a Companion to the Order of Canada for his efforts, which is the highest honour bestowed upon a civilian.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Cornelius Krieghoff

Winter Landscape, Laval
oil on canvas
painting by Cornelius Krieghoff, 1862,
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Cornelius Krieghoff (1815-1872) portrayed in his paintings the reality of the Quebec of his time; the rustic country life and the primitive and rugged living conditions, which touched him in particular. In this nineteenth-century milieu, there was in Quebec as well as in English Canada and the United States an insatiable curiosity about rustic life, folklore and North American Indians. His paintings contain an element of humour and at times are little more than caricatures.

He was a Dutch-born Canadian painter. Born in Amsterdam, his boyhood was spent in Dusseldorf and Schweinfurt. At an early age he and a friend made the tour of Europe, supporting themselves by painting and making music. In 1837 he sailed for New York and enlisted for service in the Army against the Seminole Indians in Florida. He made sketches and canvases for the War Department during that campaign, and this first contact with Indians made a lasting impression on the artist.

Demobilized in 1840, he joined his family in Montreal. From 1841 to 1846 they lived in Rochester, New York, although he studied in Paris for a short time during this period and he also spent some time in Toronto promoting his work. He settled in Montreal in 1846. He quickly established himself as an artist in Montreal, thriving until the early 1850s when the poor economy affected the art market.  It is said that to survive he had to paint sign-boards and furniture as well as giving poorly paid painting lessons. He also tried to sell his paintings door to door. Fate was with him when a Quebec City businessman saw his paintings and was drawn to their picturesque subjects.  The businessman encouraged him to move to Quebec City, introducing him to the artistic community and the social life of the city. He attained his greatest artistic and financial success during his years in Quebec City. He left Quebec City in 1863 or 1864 for Europe, returning in 1867. He left Canada for the last time in late 1871, moving to Chicago where their daughter lived. He died in Chicago.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Homer Watson

Near the Close of a Stormy Day
oil on canvas
96.5 × 142.6 cm   
Winnipeg Art Gallery, Canada

Homer Ransford Watson (Homer Watson 1855-1936) was a Canadian landscape painter and etcher, born in Doon, Ontario. He was "the man who first saw Canada as Canada, rather than as dreamy blurred pastiches of European painting," according to J. Russell Harper, a former curator of Canadian art at the National Gallery of Canada. He was a member and president of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, as well as a founding member and first president of the Canadian Art Club.

He became interested in art in his childhood after receiving a box of paints from his aunt and went on to develop as an artist without the benefit of formal training. In 1874-75 he worked at Notman Photographic Studios in Toronto. In 1876, he visited New York and was exposed to paintings by artists of the Hudson River School. He first exhibited professionally in 1878, in an exhibition sponsored by the Ontario Society of Artists. In 1880 his painting The Pioneer Mill was included in the first exhibition of the Royal Canadian Academy and was purchased by the Marquis of Lorne for the collection of Queen Victoria.

In 1882, while touring Canada, Oscar Wilde dubbed him the "Canadian Constable," comparing him to the great English landscape artist because of similar subject matter and style. Wilde would occasionally visit him in his home and they sent letters to each other. He was elected an Associate member of the Royal Canadian Academy in 1882. In 1887, he first travelled abroad, living in England and Scotland and also briefly visiting France, where he was exposed to Barbizon painting. There he further established his reputation. His works became increasingly popular among collectors and received prizes at expositions across North America.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Frederick Varley

German Prisoners on the Western Front
oil on canvas
127.4 x 183.7 cm
Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
As an official Canadian war artist, he painted many scenes on the Western Front. Here, German prisoners walk along a rocky road past rows of dead trees, debris, and bodies.

Frederick Horsman Varley (1881-1969), born in Sheffield, England, was a member of the Canadian Group of Seven artists. Of all the members of The Group of Seven, he was the most reckless in his life and personality. His moves to various parts of the country seemed predicated on the hope that life would be more fulfilling in a new environment. Not solely interested in landscape, he was fascinated with the human form, whether as a portrait, a facial study, or a figure in the landscape, and he has a lasting reputation as both a landscapist and a portrait artist.

He studied at the Sheffield School of Art and at the Antwerp Academy, in Antwerp, Belgium. In Antwerp, he had a reputation of being a heavy drinker and leading a rather bohemian life. From Antwerp, he returned to London, where he almost starved trying to support himself as an illustrator. He immigrated to Canada in 1912 on the advice of another Sheffield native (and future Group of Seven member), and found work at the Grip Ltd. design firm in Toronto, Ontario.

Beginning in January 1918, he served in the First World War. He came to the attention of Lord Beaverbrook, who arranged for him to be commissioned as an "official war artist." He accompanied Canadian troops in the Hundred Days offensive from Amiens, France to Mons, Belgium. His paintings of combat are based on his experiences at the front. In 1920, he was a founding member of the Group of Seven.

He moved to Vancouver, BC after a few years in Ontario and became the head of Department of Drawing and Painting at the School of Decorative and Applied Arts in Vancouver from 1926 to 1933. He was deeply influenced by the beauty of British Columbia, and it had a great effect on his art. The scenery that he found in British Columbia took him on an emotional journey which changed the way he painted and expanded his palette. This helped to make him an incredible teacher, and influenced many local artists.

With the Depression came about a reduction in salary at the school and he left in protest. Later on he decided to leave to B.C. and moved to Montreal where he suffered from alcoholism for many years. Finally he got over his depression and returned to Ontario and began focusing on his painting again. He enjoyed visiting unique places and remote locations, and as such traveled to places in the Arctic and Russia to paint landscapes.

He was known for painting landscapes. He painted people in green, pink, or purple. His contribution in the war influenced work in the Group of Seven. He chose to paint Canadian wilderness that had been damaged by fire or harsh climates. In 1954, along with a handful of artists, he visited the Soviet Union on the first cultural exchange of the Cold War.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Tom Thomson

The West Wind
oil on canvas
120.7 × 137.2 cm
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada

Thomas John Thomson (Tom Thomson 1877-1917) was an influential Canadian artist of the early 20th century. He is best known as an interpreter of the Canadian wilderness. He directly influenced a group of Canadian painters that would come to be known as the Group of Seven, and though he died before they formally formed, he is sometimes incorrectly credited as being a member of the group itself.

He was born at Claremont, Ontario, not far from Toronto but was brought up at Leith on the shores of Georgian Bay. After an unpromising beginning as a machinist, he worked as a photoengraver in Seattle, Wash., from 1901 to 1904. In 1907 he joined the art department of Grip Limited in Toronto, where several of the men who after World War I formed the Group of Seven worked, among them J. E. H. MacDonal.

His first large canvas was A Northern Lake, which was exhibited in the Annual Exhibition of the Ontario Society of Artists in 1913 and was bought, much to the artist's surprise, by the Ontario government. Thereafter, he dropped his career as a commercial artist and devoted himself to painting.

Each year, with growing mastery, he charted the changing seasons in Algonquin Park with a steady stream of sketches, from dazzling impressions of sunlight on snow in March, the breakup of the ice in spring, the flaming sunsets and northern lights of summer, to the pageantry of autumn's reds and golds and the gathering snow clouds over the bleak November landscape. The flat pattern, swinging line, and rich texture of the larger pictures reflect the influence of the Art Nouveau style then in vogue; but in the original sketches the strong color, bold design, and rapid brushwork have a conviction and expressive force never equaled in paintings of the Canadian northland.

Tragedy struck in the summer of 1917. In July, he set off for a day's fishing on Canoe Lake. His upturned canoe was found that evening. The West Wind was the artist's final painting, and according to some art historians was unfinished at the time of his sudden death by drowning in 1917.

Friday, August 21, 2015

J. E. H. MacDonald

Falls, Montreal River
oil on canvas
153 x 121.9 cm   
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada

J.E.H. MacDonald (1873-1932) was the English born Canadian painter. He was born in England and migrated to Canada in 1887 as a teenager with his family. He constituted the driving force and inspiration in the formation of The Group of Seven, the landscape painters who brought the influence of modern European art to their depictions of northern Canada.

The Group of Seven was considered to be radical for its time. He held strong belief in the direction and ideals of art in Canada, and often found himself spokesman for the new artistic movement. As a founding member of the Group of Seven, he challenged and vastly broadened the scope of Canadian art. He believed that art should express the "mood and character and spirit of the country", and he portrayed his vision in vast panoramas using dark, rich colours and a turbulent, patterned style. Using the dramatic colours and simplified forms of the symbolists, he captured the splendours of Algonquin Park, as well as the Georgian Bay and Algoma regions. MacDonald, who was also a poet, was a disciple of Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau, whose works influenced both his writing and his painting. His works hang in every major museum across Canada including the National Gallery of Canada.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

James Wilson Morrice

Return from School
c. 1901
oil on canvas
73.7 x 44.5 cm
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada

James Wilson Morrice (1865-1924), born in Montreal, was the first Canadian painter to win an international reputation. He was a pioneer of "pure" painting as opposed to the painting of local scenery. He was the son of a wealthy textile merchant. Characteristically, he made small pencil drawings or oil sketches on wooden panels no larger than 5 by 6 inches while seated in a cafe from which he could observe the passing show, a glass of whiskey at his elbow. He painted all his large pictures in his studio on the Quai des Grands Augustins, in broad areas of harmonious color and with detail kept to the minimum.

From 1882 to 1886 he attended the University of Toronto, and then he studied to become a lawyer. As a student, he began to paint landscapes, and in 1888, while articled to a law firm, he exhibited a painting with the Royal Canadian Academy. In 1889, with the encouragement of Sir William Van Horne, president of the Canadian Pacific Railway and a perceptive art collector, he abandoned the practice of law for good and set sail for Europe.

He became a familiar figure in the international group of artists and writers who met at the Chat Blanc, a small restaurant in Paris. Among the group were Somerset Maugham and Arnold Bennett. In 1908 he met Henri Matisse, and they traveled in Morocco in 1911-1912 and 1912-1913, although they did not paint together.

He remained in France for much of World War I and was commissioned to paint the Canadian troops in action in Picardy in 1918. From 1919 on, his health began to decline, and he spent more time in warmer climates, visiting the West Indies in 1920-1921. He died while on a visit to Tunis.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Kathleen Morris

Maison Calvet, St. Paul Street
oil on canvas
51 x 61 cm
location unknown

Kathleen Moir Morris (1893-1986), born in Montreal, was a Canadian painter of landscapes and lively street scenes, often animated by the presence of humans and animals. Except for a short stint in Ottawa, she lived her entire life in Montreal and its environs, frequently depicting scenes of urban life in warm colours, with an eye for the humane, the charming and the joyful. Her work has been shown all over the world.

She met with considerable success during her lengthy career as an artist. She became a member of the Beaver Hall Group and exhibited frequently in Quebec and Ontario with the Royal Canadian Academy, the Montreal Spring Shows and the Ontario Society of Artists. The Beaver Hall Group officially dissolved in 1922, but she still participated in their exhibitions while living in Ottawa. She returned to the Montreal area in 1929 and lived there for the remainder of her life. She became a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts that same year.

She painted scenes of urban and preindustrial rural Quebec not in support of a French Canadian identity but to suggest that the "primitive" could provide a sanctuary from modern life. From the first, deeply textured, strokes of her early works, to the gentle swoops of colour and line in her later landscapes, she exhibited a unique style that set her apart from her contemporaries. She painted from sketches, in which she simplified the forms and applied colour in bold, thick patches. Her subject matter reflected her kinship with her surroundings and an appreciation of the simple life. She also felt deeply for the animal world, voicing her concerns publicly to protest the annual seal hunt. She was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy in 1929 and received honourable mention at the Second Willingdon Arts Competition.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Allan Edson

Lumberjacks on the Saint-Maurice River
oil on canvas
58.5 x 101.5 cm
Don de Marian Ives au Musee des Beaux-arts de Montreal

Aaron Allan Edson (1846-1888) was a Canadian landscape painter. He lived in Montreal for the major part of his career. He was mostly a landscape artist, as talented in oil as he was in watercolour. His landscapes reflect the most important artistic preoccupations of this era.

At the age of nine, his family settled in Stanbridge, where his father ran a hotel. In 1857, he enrolled in the new Stanbridge Academy where he took his first drawing courses. While living in Stanbridge, his talents were soon recognized and encouraged by a citizen and important collector. After moving to Montreal in 1861, he had several jobs including a clerk for novelty items as well as bookkeeper for an art dealer. Wanting to perfect his education, he left Montreal in 1864, making the first of three trips to Europe. The other two took place in 1877 and 1881-86. He lived in Montreal for the major part of his career.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Laura Muntz Lyall

Interesting Story
Medium     painting
81.3 × 100.3 cm
other detail unknown

Laura Muntz Lyall (1860-1930) was the first woman artist to receive recognition outside of Canada.  She is known in particular for her images of maternite. Some her works were exhibited at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois and then in 1894 as part of the Societe des artistes francais in Paris.  However, her career had to be put on hold following the death of her sister who left behind eleven children that Laura took responsibility for.  It would be nine years before she was able to devote any time to painting but she lived only a few more years and passed away in 1930 in Toronto.

She was born in Radford, Warwickshire, England.  Her family emigrated to Canada when she was a child to take up farming in the Muskoka District of Ontario. As a young lady, she was trained to be a school teacher but her interest in art eventually led her to take private art lessons.  Encouraged, she traveled to Paris, France to study at the renowned Academie Colarossi where she was influenced by the Impressionist style. On her return to Canada, she set up a studio in Toronto and became an Associate of the Royal College of Art (ARCA).

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Ozias Leduc

Boy with Bread
oil on canvas
50.7 × 55.7 cm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Ozias Leduc (1864-1955), born in Quebec, is one of Quebec's early painters. He produced many portraits, still lifes and landscapes, as well as religious works. He is best known for his work decorating the Notre-Dame-de-la-Presentation church in Shawinigan South, a project which took him thirteen years to complete. Notre-Dame-de-la-Presentation church was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2004 and it was plaqued in 2005. He was mainly self-taught.

In 1897, he made a brief trip to Paris and London, where he was influenced by some impressionists. He returned to Canada and set to work on decorations for the church at St. Hilaire. He made his living mainly from church decorations of which he did more than one hundred and fifty paintings for about twenty-eight cathedrals, churches, or chapels.

He lived a very solitary life in his home town and was dubbed "the sage of St-Hilaire". He received an Honorary doctorate from the Universite de Montreal in 1938. He was made a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Joseph Legare

View of the Fire in Saint-Jean District of Quebec City, Looking West
oil on canvas
81.3 x 110.5 cm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Joseph Legare (1795-1855) was a painter and glazier, artist, seigneur and political figure in Lower Canada. He was the first landscape artist of French-Canadian origin. The eldest son in a family of six children, he was born in Quebec City, the son of a cobbler. Due to the financial success of his father as a business man, the family became relatively wealthy as a result. Around 1819, he became a fine-arts painter. Self-taught and he never went to Europe for training. He learned by copying the work of others.

In all he painted more than 250 oils on canvas or paper, including about one hundred religious copies, occasional portraits, some rural scenes and contemporary events, some remarkable historical tableaux and native Indian subjects. He worked ceaselessly to promote fine arts in Lower Canada, and after 1845 was one of the greatest supporters of the creation of a national gallery. A Lower Canadian nationalist, he tirelessly promoted humanitarian, social and political goals. His activities included a stint as member of the first Quebec City municipal council (1833-36).

Friday, August 14, 2015

Paul Kane

Flat head woman with child
circa 1848
oil on canvas
75.7 × 63.2 cm
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, Canada

Paul Kane (1810-1871) was a Canadian painter and writer. His works form a unique record of the appearance and customs of the Indians of western Canada in the middle of the 19th century.

He was born in Ireland. His father, a soldier turned wine and spirit merchant, took him to Toronto when he was 8, and it was here that he had his first introduction to art. From 1826 to 1830 he worked in a furniture factory in Ontario, and painted portraits of the local citizens in his spare time. In 1836 he set off on 9 years of wandering. His travels first took him south through the United States to New Orleans; from there he sailed for Marseilles in 1841 and after that across Europe and briefly to the eastern Mediterranean and North Africa. By the time he returned to Toronto in 1845, he had decided on his life's work and had acquired the necessary skill to carry it out. He prepared himself for his task by copying Old Masters in the museums.

His first expedition among the Indians started in 1845. In the course of the next 2 years he traveled from one trading post to another by canoe, on horseback, and by sleigh and dog team as far as Vancouver Island, sketching the Indians in oils and watercolors and collecting artifacts as he went. Returning to Toronto in 1848, he began the series of 100 canvases, now in the Royal Ontario Museum. He also painted a dozen pictures for Sir George Simpson and another 12 for the Canadian legislature, 11 of which are now in the National Gallery of Canada.

In 1858 Kane revisited London to arrange for the publication of his journal, Wanderings of an Artist among the Indians of North America. In 1866 blindness forced him to abandon his plans for further painting and publication.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A. Y. Jackson

House of Ypres
1917 or 1918
oil on board
63.8 x 76.8 cm   
Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Canada

Alexander Young Jackson (1882-1974), born in Montreal, was a Canadian painter and a founding member of the Group of Seven. He made a significant contribution to the development of art in Canada, and was successful in bringing together the artists of Montreal and Toronto. In addition to his work with the Group of Seven, his long career included serving as a war artist during World War I and teaching at the Banff School of Fine Arts, from 1943 to 1949.

He began work at age twelve for a Montreal lithography company to help his mother feed the family. Working at the lithography company, his interest in art began to develop and he took evening classes to train as an artist. By 1905, he worked his way to Europe where he spent some time studying art. He was deeply influenced by Impressionism at this time in his life. In 1907, he traveled to Paris to study impressionism and remained in Paris until 1912.

His life took a different sort of turn by 1914 when he enlisted in the Canadian Army. He served for two years until he was wounded in 1917, which saw him transferred to the records department as a war artist. He produced many great works, and gave his art a very different edge.

In 1919, he formally joined the Group of Seven and exhibited with them throughout the next decade. By 1924, he began to teach at the Ontario College of Art but resigned after one year to continue his outdoor sketches. He continued to travel and paint and mentor other young artists in his later years. Visiting Europe again in 1936, and often traveling around Canada on art expeditions.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Aaron Allan Edson

Lumberjacks on the Saint-Maurice River
oil on canvas
58.5 x 101.5 cm
Don de Marian Ives au Musee des Beaux-arts de Montreal

Aaron Allan Edson (1846-1888) was a Canadian landscape painter. He lived in Montreal for the major part of his career. He was mostly a landscape artist, as talented in oil as he was in watercolour. His landscapes reflect the most important artistic preoccupations of this era.

At the age of nine, his family settled in Stanbridge, where his father ran a hotel. In 1857, he enrolled in the new Stanbridge Academy where he took his first drawing courses. While living in Stanbridge, his talents were soon recognized and encouraged by a citizen and important collector. After moving to Montreal in 1861, he had several jobs including a clerk for novelty items as well as bookkeeper for an art dealer. Wanting to perfect his education, he left Montreal in 1864, making the first of three trips to Europe. The other two took place in 1877 and 1881-86. He lived in Montreal for the major part of his career.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

William Berczy

Portrait of Thayendanegea (Joseph Brant)
c. 1805
oil on canvas
61.8 × 46.1 cm    
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

William Berczy (1744-1813) was a German-born Upper Canada pioneer and painter. He was born in Swabia, Electorate of Bavaria (part of the Holy Roman Empire and now in Germany). He studied at the University of Jena in Saxony.

His early career was spent in several European countries, including Italy and England, where he exhibited at the Royal Academy. In 1792, he set sailed for the Americas settling in Philadelphia, then setting up a business in York, Upper Canada (now Toronto). A couple years later, his work took him to Lower Canada (Quebec). Although best known for his portraits, he also carried out religious paintings and architectural work. His two best known pictures are a full-length portrait of the Mohawk chief Thayendanegea (Joseph Brant) and a group portrait of the Woolsey Family.

He travelled to New York City during the War of 1812 and was stranded when attempting to travel to England. He died in the city and was buried at Trinity Church. His son Charles Albert Berczy became the first Post Master of Toronto.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Boy and dog in a Johnnypump
oil on canvas
240 x 420.4 cm
The Stephanie and Peter Brant Foundation, Greenwich, CN, USA

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) was a Neo-Expressionist American-Haitian painter, known for his raw gestural style of painting with graffiti-like images and scrawled text. He was raised in a middle-class home in Brooklyn. His mother was an American of Puerto Rican descent.

A self-taught artist, he began drawing at an early age on sheets of paper his father, an accountant, brought home from the office. As he delved deeper into his creative side, his mother strongly encouraged to pursue artistic talents. She encouraged his interest in art, taking him to New York City’s great art museums. His parents eventually separated, and he and his sisters lived with their father in Puerto Rico from 1974 to 1976. His mother was diagnosed as mentally ill and eventually was institutionalized.

In 1977, he quit high school. To make ends meet, he sold sweatshirts and postcards featuring his artwork on the streets of his native New York. In 1980 in a group show, his work and style received critical acclaim for the fusion of words, symbols, stick figures, and animals. Soon, his paintings came to be adored by an art loving public. His rise coincided with the emergence of a new art movement, Neo-Expressionism. In the mid 1980s, he collaborated with Andy Warhol.

As his popularity soared, so did his personal problems. By the mid-1980s, friends became increasingly concerned by his excessive drug use. He became paranoid and isolated himself from the world around him. He died of a drug (heroin) overdose in New York City. He was 27 years old. Although his art career was brief, he has been credited with bringing the African-American and Latino experience in the elite art world.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Luis Cruz Azaceta

Self-Portrait with Phony Hat
colored ink and pencils on paper
other detail unknown

Luis Cruz Azaceta (1942- ) is a Cuban-born New Orleans painter. He explores a dark side of America in his work. His parents were of Basque and Asturian ancentry. "Azaceta" means "from A to Z" in the Basque alphabet. He grew up in Havana, where his father worked for 33 years for the Cuban Air Force as an airplane mechanic. He always wanted to be a pilot. His journey to New Orleans began in 1960 when his family fled Cuba following Fidel Castro’s communist revolution. He and his family settled in New York City, where he studied art at the School of Visual Arts and eventually became a critically acclaimed figure in the city’s contemporary art scene and a pioneer in the New Expressionist movement.

In the early 1980s, he served as a visiting artist at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, where he married, and then moved to New York. In 1992, they relocated to New Orleans with their two sons. He felt a special cultural connection between his native Havana and New Orleans. “I wanted to raise my sons in the South and her family was here in New Orleans”, “I’ve always loved New Orleans.” . Once in New Orleans, he experimented with his art and for the first time used photography and photo-collages to explore the city. Even his application of paint changed in New Orleans.

For him, art is not a vehicle by which one achieves aesthetic satisfaction and an escape from common history and time. Rather, it is a way of facing the world. He recognizes that change is inevitable, and that all of us are implicated by reality and time passing. The world we inhabit is contingent and changing; and chaos is an inherent part of the process. This is the reality we all share and which we all too often ignore.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Wifredo Lam

The Jungle
239 x 229 cm
Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA

Lam painted The Jungle, his masterpiece, two years after returning to his native Cuba from Europe, where he had been a member of the Surrealist movement. The work, “intended to communicate a psychic state,” Lam said, depicts a group of figures with crescentshaped faces that recall African or Pacific Islander masks, against a background of vertical, striated poles suggesting Cuban sugarcane fields. Together these elements obliquely address the history of slavery in colonial Cuba.

Wifredo Lam (1902-1982) was born and raised in a village in the sugar farming province of Villa Clara, Cuba. He was of mixed-race ancestry: his father was a Chinese immigrant and his mother was born to a Congolese former slave mother and a Cuban mulatto father. In his born place, he was surrounded by many people of African descent.

He sought to portray and revive the enduring Afro-Cuban spirit and culture. Inspired by and in contact with some of the most renowned artists of the 20th century, he melded his influences and created a unique style, which was ultimately characterized by the prominence of hybrid figures. While he began simplifying his forms before he came into contact with Picasso's work, it is apparent that Picasso had a significant impact on him. With regard to Picasso's exhibition, he said that it was "not only a revelation, but… a shock." Lam gained the approval of Picasso, whose encouragement has been said to have led him to search for his own interpretation of modernism.

He held the belief that society focused too much on the individual and sought to show humanity as a whole in his artwork. He painted generic figures, creating the universal. To further his goal, he often painted mask-like faces. While Cuban culture and mythology permeated his work, it dealt with the nature of man and therefore was wholly relatable to non-Cubans. Though he was predominantly a painter, he also worked with sculpture, ceramics and printmaking in his later life.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Armando Menocal

Jura de Santa Gadea
oil on canvas
Ayuntamiento de Alfafar, Comunidad Valenciana, Spain
size unknown

Armando Menocal (1863-1942) was a Cuban painter.
He studied at the Academy of San Alejandro in his native city, then went to Spain in 1880 for further study.
He exhibited in Spain, winning numerous awards, and later returned to Cuba to join the Liberation Forces in the Cuban War of Independence. Upon its completion, he dedicated himself to the teaching of art, returning to his alma mater as a professor of landscape painting. In 1940 he became director emeritus. His paintings decorated many public buildings around Havana. He was also a member of Cuba's National Academy of Arts and Letters.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Frida Kahlo

Self-Portrait with Monkeys
oil on canvas
81.5 x 63.0 cm

"I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration." (Frida) "She lived dying", said one of Frida's friend.

Frida Kahlo de Rivera (1907-1954) 's life began and ended in Mexico City, in her home known as the Blue House. The iconic Mexican painter's biography is riddled with sadness. At the age of six, she developed polio, leaving her right leg thinner than the left, which she disguised by wearing long, colorful skirts. Following a traffic accident in her teenage years (a tram collided with the bus on which she was travelling home from school), she went on to suffer further health problems until her death in 1954. The traffic accident was life changing. She suffered a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, a broken pelvis, eleven fractures in her right leg, a crushed and dislocated right foot, a dislocated shoulder and other complications which affected her reproductive ability. During three months recovering in a full body cast, she studied the natural sciences, with the eventual aim of becoming a medical doctor... and began to paint, encouraged by her mother.

As a child, she lived through the Mexican Revolution, and from a young age she was interested in politics. She is believed to have joined the Young Communist League, and attended rallies and meetings. In 1928, when she was 21, Kahlo embarked on a relationship with Diego Rivera. Rivera, then aged 41, was Mexico’s most celebrated artist, famed for politically motivated murals that adorned the walls of numerous public buildings. Encouraged by Rivera, who used aspects of Mexican folk art in his mural schemes, Kahlo began to paint in a more vernacular style.

Mexican culture and Amerindian cultural tradition are important in her work, which has been sometimes characterized as Naive art or folk art. Her work has also been described as "surrealist", and in 1938 Andre Breton, principal initiator of the surrealist movement, described Frida's art as a "ribbon around a bomb".
Frida later stated, "I was born a bitch. I was born a painter". She channeled her energy and emotion into her artworks and her many pets - Amazon parrots, spider monkeys, Aztecs dogs, hens, sparrows and a fawn - which lived at her home.

During the 1950s, her health deteriorated steadily. She went through a series of operations on her spine, all to no avail. Eventually, she was confined to a wheel chair, then permanently consigned to bed. She was forced to take painkillers almost constantly, and the technical execution of her work deteriorated visibly. In the summer of 1954, she contracted pneumonia and died soon after turning 47, in the Blue House, the place where she had been born. A few days before her death she wrote in her diary, "I hope the exit is joyful ... and I hope never to return ... Frida".

In accordance with Frida's wishes, her body was cremated. The urn was placed in the Blue House, which was converted into a gallery of her work. She produced only about 200 paintings - primarily still life and portrait of herself, family and friends. "I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best." "My painting carries with it the message of pain."

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Diego Rivera

Street in Avila
oil on canvas
129 x 141 cm
Museo Nacional de Arte, Mexico City, Mexico

“An artist is above all a human being, profoundly human to the core. If the artist can’t feel everything that humanity feels, if the artist isn’t capable of loving until he forgets himself and sacrifices himself if necessary, if he won’t put down his magic brush and head the fight against the oppressor, then he isn’t a great artist.” (Diego Rivera)

Diego Maria de la Concepcion Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodriguez, known as Diego Rivera (1886-1957)  was a prominent Mexican painter and the husband of Frida Kahlo (famous painter).
He was still married when he met the art student Frida Kahlo. They married in 1929 when he was 42 and she was 22. Their mutual infidelities and his violent temper led to divorce in 1939, but they remarried in 1940 in San Francisco and lived together until Frida Kahlo's death in 1954.

His large wall works in fresco helped establish the Mexican Mural Movement in Mexican art. Between 1922 and 1953, he painted murals among others in Mexico City, Chapingo, Cuernavaca, San Francisco, Detroit, and New York City. His political views were communist and his Marxist-Leninist social revolutionary philosophies prevailed in his art. He used art to create hope and provide a vision of a better world.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Jose Maria Velasco Gomez

Patio del Exconvento de San Agustin
other detail unknown

Jose Maria Velasco Gomez (1840-1912). born in Temascalcingo, was a 19th-century Mexican painter who made Mexican geography a symbol of national identity through his paintings. He was one of the most popular artists of the time and received many distinctions such as the gold medals of National Expositions of Bellas Artes in 1874 and 1876, etc.

He worked as a clerk in a clothing store while studying at the College of Santa Catarina Lancasteriano Martyr, where he showed love for drawing. In 1855, he entered the Academy of San Carlos and joined the class of landscape given by an Italian painter. In 1868, considered one of the greatest landscape painters of the nineteenth century, he was appointed Professor of Perspective. In 1889 he was commissioned by the Government of Mexico to head the delegation to attend France taking paintings of various authors, to be exhibited at the Universal Exposition in Paris, with which the centenary of the French Revolution was commemorated. In 1893 attends the Chicago World's Fair, the exhibition with which the fourth centenary of the discovery of America was celebrated. Today the Government of the State of Mexico presents an award for artistic merit in his name to painters born in that state.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Arnold Belkin

Serdan brothers, the struggle continues
oil on canvas
other detail unknown

Arnold Belkin (1930-1992), born in Calgary, Alberta, and raised in Vancouver was a Jewish-Mexican painter. He has been referred to as "the Canadian son of Mexican muralism". Throughout his life, he was committed to presenting humanity's most controversial and sometimes painful experiences. He was never interested in producing murals or easel works that could be considered mere diversion. He played a fundamental role in the history of painting in Mexico.

When he was 14 years old, he discovered Diego Rivera and Mexican Muralism in the pages of "Time Magazine". The magazine showcased a few of Rivera's works, documenting Rivera's commitment to the figure, which made a great impact on Belkin. At the age of 15, while a student at the Vancouver School of Art, he won a competition for his painting, "Workers on a Streetcar". This early work can be considered a preamble to his oeuvre. His art carried seeds of rebellion from a young age, and throughout his life, he maintained an interest in social issues and the rights of the poor and underprivileged classes. This interest, along with his concern regarding the abuse of power by the upper class permeated his artistic output throughout his career. In 1947, after finishing high school, he moved to Mexico to further his study of painting. By the early 1960s, he established himself as the angry young man of mural painting. He believed history was a mirror of the future and his imagery reflected this belief.

In 1968 he went to live and work in New York City, to seek inspiration abroad. While in New York, he was asked to do a mural as part of a larger effort to rebuild a playground in Hell's Kitchen (at 45th and 46th Streets). This resulted in the young people of the community being very proud of the finished product. His easel paintings also enjoyed much success during his time in New York. His paintings sold well at the galleries. His artistic output was consumed with images and ideas of the future and utopia. In spite of his successes in New York City, he wanted to be a part of Mexican history and culture. He returned to Mexico in 1976 and became a citizen there in 1981. He died in Mexico City in 1992 of lung cancer, perhaps caused by years of using acrylic paints with an airbrush. During and following his life he was treated as a celebrity in art circles throughout Mexico and much of Latin America.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Juan Rodriguez Juarez

San Juan de Dios
between 1695 and 1728
oil on canvas
174.5 × 110.5 cm
Museum of the Americas, Madrid, Spain

Juan Rodriguez Juarez (1675-1728) was a Mexican painter in the Viceroyalty of New Spain. He was a member of a Spanish family long noted for their accomplishments in the world of painting. His father was a notable Spanish painter. His brother was also a famous contemporary artist in the Spanish colony.  His maternal grandfather and maternal great great grandfather were also notable painters in Spanish history and prominent in the Baroque era.

Like many artists in New Spain during the late Baroque period, he followed the trend of painting portraits of the local nobility. These works followed European models, with symbols of rank and titles either displayed unattached in the outer portions or worked into another element of the paintings such as curtains.